Tuesday, November 29, 2011

reconditioned food

Under the what's-in-your-food catgory...an article caught my attention at the beginning of the week about reconditioned food.  I'll be totally honest with you and share that this idea never ever crossed my mind.  I assumed that if food was in any way spoiled it needed to be discarded.  This article, however, made it abundantly clear that this is not the case.  The fact that the company in question only received a "sharp censure" from the FDA is truly wrong.

In Home Ec (as we used to call it) I remember being taught in the sixth grade that soft foods with any hint of mold, discoloration, or odor should be immediately destroyed as bacteria travelled quickly through them, whereas in hard foods they are more localized.  I don't know about you but in my book applesauce is a soft food.

The FDA has a manual that talks about food reconditioning.  But just because you can doesn't mean you should.  With the increasing rates of food recalls due to bacterial infections, poor sanitary conditions and massive outbreaks of illness why is our government willing to allow corporations to knowingly serve bad food for profit?  Silly question...we all know the answer is money.

As a consumer the answer boils down to what is one of my top catch phrases...eat real food.  Do I buy some packaged foods, yes I do.  But I try to buy as little as possible, purchasing most of our groceries as whole food and then making the items myself.   We have already severely reduced our canned goods (most of what we have on hand is in our emergency preparedness closet), and are weaning ourselves off of most snack foods.  This last is not so popular with our teens but we certainly don't have nearly as much as we used to.  I also get more and more products from local sources that I trust.

The more I learn, the more I am motivated to make things myself.  For example learning that "an average of 225 insect fragments or 4.5 rodent hairs per 8 ounces of macaroni or noodle products." is okay is motivating me to get out the pasta maker again.  I still, and always will, throw out whatever is contaminated in my house.  When we have had a moth infestation everything they got into was destroyed. That's why my dry goods are stored in glass or plastic, to keep them out.  Hard food products can be washed, and cleaned so although I don't like it I understand how it can be allowed in a case like the one in Illinois.  But it's motivated me to double check the pantry seals on things.

The FDA has set up a Reportable Food Registry which is a first step.  But I believe they need to know that this practice is unacceptable.  What are your thoughts on the matter?

Monday, November 28, 2011

do you know what's in your food?

image from: gmo-journal.com
I've been writing more about Genetically Modified (GM - also referred to as GMO or GE) foods lately.  Part of it is because the problem seems to be getting worse.  I am concerned that there is still no labeling required in this country.  According to this article from the San Francisco Chronicle 93 percent of Americans polled want their food labeled.  They want the right to know.  But it's still not happening.  Why?  Because it's bad for business.

I'm reminded of the fight over Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) when the dairy industry fought like mad to stop farmers from labeling their milk as free of this harmful additive hormone which is not healthy for cows or humans.  The farmers prevailed in that they were allowed to label their products as being rBGH-free but were forced to put a statement on their product that there was no difference between dairy from cows treated with or without rBGH.  Science has since proved them wrong and we now know that rBGH increases Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), decreases nutrition in the milk, increases mastitis in the cows (requiring antibiotics which we ingest because they don't stop milking the cows while they are giving them antibiotics), and decreased fertility in cows.  That's obviously a problem for the cows, if they can't be bred, or "freshened" in dairy parlance, they can't be milked and therefore are no longer useful.  If  rBGH causes infertility in cows (apparently studies have showed a reduction of as much as 40%), what does it do to the people who drink the milk?

We are the only industrialized nation, to my knowledge, that still allows this harmful chemical in our food.  Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan, among others, have all banned it's use.  Purchasing dairy products labeled rBGH-free or organic is the only way to avoid this chemical.

But with GM foods it's a completely different thing.  Yes, purchasing organic is one way to avoid it, but no GM foods are labeled, not everything is available organic, and it's not financially feasible to purchase everything organic (at least not in our house).  You would be amazed at how far GM products have crept into our food supply.  We deserve the right to know what is in our food.  I believe that corporate interests and profits should not supersede the right to choose clean food.

I also wonder what it says when the employees of the company that makes most of the GM foods, Monsanto, won't eat it, demanding GM free foods in their cafeteria?  If they won't eat it why should you?

California is, potentially, about to become the first state to require mandatory GM labeling.  With 80 percent of those polled in California supporting this initiative I am hopeful that they will win.  Striking a blow against these modified foods and their manufacturers.  I'm also hopeful that this will be the first of a steamroller effect across the country.

To stay informed about this issue you can follow along on the blog as well as at Organic Consumers.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


coconut | photo: Robert Wetzlmayr
This Thanksgiving we had coconut cream instead of whipped cream.  It was a delicious substitute for those at the table who could not have dairy and it paired very well with the pumpkin custard.

Coconut is a great food item to have in your pantry.  A source of phosphorus which is beneficial for strong teeth and bones as well as supporting kidney function, there are many different ways in which coconut can be added to the diet.

Let's start, though, by addressing the allergy issue.  According to the FDA coconuts must be labeled as a tree nut.  And there does appear to be a potential for cross-reaction for anyone who is allergic, or sensitive, to either walnuts or hazelnuts.  This means that if you have a sensitivity to either walnuts or hazelnuts and consume coconut products, you may want to discuss this with your allergist or to try an elimination diet and see if you should not eat coconut.

Ways to use coconut include:

  • Coconut meat - a tasty treat which can be eaten fresh or dried.  
  • Coconut flour - the dried ground meat can be used in baking and is especially popular for gluten free baking.  It's also a good source of protein with 100 g of coconut flour containing just over 19 g of protein.
  • Coconut water - sometimes called coconut juice, this is the liquid from the center of the coconut.  It is a fairly balanced electrolyte fluid; far tastier, and certainly far healthier, than sports drinks.
  • Coconut milk - made from the ground meat this is a tasty dairy substitute that many people enjoy.
  • Coconut cream - the solid section of the coconut milk which rises to the top; this can be skimmed off and used the same as whipping cream.
  • Coconut oil - made from the meat, this is a healthy source of medium chain fatty acids and can be used in baking and cooking.  It even makes a great facial moisturizer. 
Coconut flour, milk and water all substitute fairly well at a one-for-one ratio for their conventional counterparts.  Coconut oil substitutes one-for-one although I have found that because it melts differently it sometimes gives a different texture to baked goods.  We have added this versatile range of products to the pantry and are enjoying the tasty variety that they add to our diet.  I'm sure you will too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

pie for breakfast

cherry apple streusel pie with gluten free crust
Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Maybe there's a few crumbs left on the tablecloth, but for sure there's a fridge full of delicious leftovers.  I'm so grateful for so many things this year.  Having all of my children around the table, plus extra guests, plus an array of food that is truly bountiful.

Resonating in the back of my head among all of the pleasant memories and musings is this article that I recently read about Thanksgiving Thrift.  Which leads me to be grateful that at least for this one holiday there probably won't be much food waste.  Jonathan Bloom talks about how much food we waste in this country both on his blog and in his book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It).

One way to avoid waste is to utilize leftovers.  This is a concept that I embrace whole-heartedly at all times of the year.  I've written about it before here and here.  Not only does it cut down on the grocery and trash bills, it also helps cut down on my time in the kitchen.  Don't get me wrong, I love to cook and bake.  But even so I don't feel the need to create a full three course meal from scratch every single night of the week.

I was struck by the thought, prompted by the article, that other folks don't utilize their leftovers to plan other delicious meals for their families.  Except for Thanksiving.  Well at least for today the twitterverse is aflutter with ideas for leftovers.  Starting with pie for breakfast and wandering through a host of culinary genius I'm struck by the creativity and enthusiasm with which so many people greet the concept of Thanksgiving leftovers.  And hoping that it will continue throughout the year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

pizza as a vegetable

My mind is reeling.  Last week Congress declared pizza a vegetable, again.  Having just returned home from the Wise Traditions conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), where the focus was on whole, nourishing, traditional foods, to a this kind of absurdity is mind boggling.

I should not be surprised, this has been policy up until now but I confess I'm appalled to think that anyone in our government is stupid enough to believe that the tomato paste on a slice of pizza in any way counts as a serving of vegetables.  It's barely got any nutrition at all and comes wrapped in highly processed, chemically conditioned dough, covered with cheese that is no doubt loaded with rBST and antibiotics and possibly some preservative-laden pepperoni.  As the video above states, we, and our children, are having their taste buds conditioned to prefer unhealthy foods.

While this is nothing new, it is certainly getting a lot of press.  I hope it's also getting a lot of attention from a lot of parents.  This is not what you want to feed your kids to have them grow up strong and healthy.  I encourage everyone who cares about these issues to get involved:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

zucchini noodles

I wanted to share this dinner that I made recently because it was quick, easy, and very tasty.   It's an assembly style dish, you cook each of the layers and when you get to the last layer dinner is done.  Most of the time is spent in prep-work, the actual cooking doesn't take too long.  I do keep the dish in the oven in between layers (set to 250 degrees) to make sure everything stays warm.

This recipe came out of a need to provide a meal for someone who follows a gluten free diet.  Many people are avoiding gluten these days.  And while there are certainly a number of gluten free pasta options out there, quite a number of people are also not getting enough vegetables.  I think this idea is a delicious way to add more veggies to the diet.

Zucchini noodles.  So yummy and so easy to make.  The best part is that you can even use the oversize-on-their-way-to-baseball-bat sized zucchini.  Wash the zucchini, trim both ends, and using a vegetable peeler begin to peel long strips all the way down the length of the zucchini.  After several strip rotate the zucchini one-quarter turn and make more strips, rotate again, repeat.  This helps to make thin enough strips width-wise.  I peel all the way down to the seeds but don't peel the seeded part of the zucchini.

Here's the recipe for you to enjoy.

Zucchini Noodles and Sausage 

1 package pre-cooked, chicken cilantro sausage
1 large zucchini, turn into noodles, dice the center part
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup minced cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet
Add 1/2 of the diced onion and the garlic
When the onion starts to soften turn down the heat slightly and add the zucchini
Toss and cook the zucchini for approximately 5 minutes until it is coated in oil and warmed through
Place zucchini and onions into a serving dish
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet
Add the rest of the onion
When onion starts to soften add bell pepper, diced zucchini center, tomato, and tomato paste,
Saute until bell pepper starts to soften
Add salt and pepper to taste
Spoon mixture over zucchini noodles

Place sausage in the skillet and heat until browned on the outside
Remove sausage from skillet and slice into bite sized pieces
Sprinkle sausage pieces on top of dish
Garnish with cilantro

Note:  if necessary you can make this dish ahead.  Simply reheat in a 300 F degree oven for about 20 minutes until all of the ingredients are warmed through

Sunday, November 13, 2011

baking mishaps

A lesson in humility... Just a week ago I posted a recipe for lemon millet muffins.  I was so happy with how the recipe came together the first time.  Often that doesn't happen.  This next effort clearly demonstrates that.

I wanted to make cookies.  The family has been requesting chocolate chip for a while and I've been experimenting with lots of other types, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodles, etc, that I decided the time had come to make chocolate chip cookies.  Never content to just pick a tried-and-true recipe I wanted to make gluten free, dairy free, egg free chocolate chip cookies.

The picture shows that it was less than successful.  I will share that they taste great but they don't look so hot.  The biggest concern is what will happen when they cool.  In my experience if they spread this much they are often inedible when no longer warm.  We'll see how it goes.

And it goes without saying that this particular recipe is not exactly ready for prime time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

weston a. price foundation

Wise Traditions Conference ~ Dallas, TX ~ November 11-14 2010

I'm so excited. In a frenzy of last-minute packing and organizing, I'm off to the Weston A. Price Foundation Conference.  I've been a member for several years but this is the first time I've been able to go to one of their conferences.  Looking forward to learning an enormous amount of information from people whose work I have been following for some time.

Leaving the family behind I'm off to immerse myself in the world of traditional foods, fermentation, and holistic health.  I can't wait to come back and start sharing all the wonderful information I've learned.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

olive oil cranberry bundt cake

harvesting cranberries | photo: jkb
I love the tasty tartness of cranberries and every year I look forward to the fresh ones available in the grocery store.  I confess to being somewhat jealous of my brother and sister-in-law who live in Massachusetts near a cranberry bog.  Not only is it picturesque, it produces loads of these lovely berries, one of the few native fruits we have in this country.

Most people tend to eat cranberries either as canned jelly or as craisins.  But they're so much more versatile than that.  During the holiday season I make my own cranberry orange relish and love a dollop of it in my morning oatmeal in the winter.  Even more than that I love it in this bundt cake.  I've lost the original source for this recipe over the years but I remember learning about olive oil bundt cakes years ago and being amazed at the thought of olive oil in a cake.  When I discovered how moist the cake was, even days later, I was hooked.  Tinkering with the recipe over the years this is the final version that I came up with.  It's a tasty recipe and I always look forward to making it when fresh cranberries are in season.*

Olive Oil Cranberry Bundt Cake

6 egg whites
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice crystals
3/4 cup extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup organic buttermilk
2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Butter a 9 inch bundt pan and dust with flour
In a bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff
Beat in the cane juice crystals until fluffy
Mix in the olive oil
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Alternately mix the egg white mixture and the buttermilk into the flour mixture until smooth
Fold in the cranberries and orange zest
Transfer the mixture to the prepared Bundt pan
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean

Note:  this cake can also be made with blueberries instead of cranberries, simply omit the cinnamon 
          and nutmeg.

If desired make a simple orange juice glaze:

1 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
1/4 cup orange juice

blend the cane juice crystals in a blender until finer and more powdery
whisk together with orange juice

*don't forget to buy extra bags of cranberries, they freeze very well

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


When I work with people I sometimes recommend they take certain supplements.  If they have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, shown through testing, or if they have digestive issues, there are supplements that can help with that.  When I suggest supplements I almost always suggest professional grade because they are a more pure product and do not have all of the chemicals and most of the fillers that come in over-the-counter supplements.  This is especially important for those who need to follow a nutritional plan that requires them to avoid dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, or corn.

Recently one of my clients asked why all of the supplements I suggest have no colors.  She pointed out that it is easier for her to know which is which when they are colored.

While the colors may make identification easier it actually makes the supplements less healthy for you.  There are a number of studies that show a negative effect from artificial colors on children with ADHD, autism, and other neurobiological illnesses.  According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) there is also evidence showing that many people have food sensitivities to artificial color and that these artificial colors are carcinogenic in animal studies.

When I advise people to take artificial colors out of their diet the object is to remove all artificial colors.  This includes those substances that are not food but which are ingested in some way such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and, yes, even supplements.

The supplements can be identified by the label, and it's a healthier choice.  I say choose the healthier option.

Monday, November 7, 2011

gluten free lemon muffins

lemons | photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos
I needed to make something to bring to an event that I was attending recently.  Knowing that the hostess was sensitive to gluten and dairy I wanted to make sure that I made something that fit her nutritional plan.  Casting around for ideas I spied a pile of fresh lemons that I had recently purchased (they were on sale) in the fruit bowl.

I love lemon muffins, they are so tasty and yet,  I'm not sure why,  they don't often make an appearance.  I wanted my muffins to have a little crunch to them so I decided to add some millet which would give a slight pop when eaten.  I started with coconut oil and sucanat (no dairy means no butter), added a couple of eggs and the zest of one lemon.  While I was at it I juiced the lemon, strained the juice, put it in a measuring cup and then added almond milk (again no dairy) so that it would curdle and thicken a little.  I then began to add the dry ingredients.  After adding the curdled milk I tasted the mixture and decided it needed just a pinch more sweetener.

I made this in mini-muffin tins and got three dozen.  They were well received at the event, all of them were eaten and I even got requests for the recipe.

I often play with a recipe multiple times before it's ready for prime time, but this one seemed to come together really well so I'm sharing it as is.  Enjoy.

Lemon Millet Muffins

1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup sucanat
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
1 lemon
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk, approximately
1 cup gluten free flour mix (I used oat, rice, buckwheat, tapioca)
1/4 cup fresh ground flax seeds
1/4 cup (heaping) millet seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease three mini-muffin pans (or one regular muffin pan)
Zest the lemon
Juice the lemon and put juice into a measuring cup
Add almond milk until there is 2/3 cup liquid
Beat together coconut oil and sugars until fully combined
Add eggs, one at a time until well mixed
Add lemon zest, baking soda, and the salt
Alternate adding flour and curdled milk, making sure they are well mixed
Spoon by tablespoonfuls into muffin cups
Bake 15 minutes
Let cool 2 minutes in the pan
Finish cooling on a wire rack